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Circuit Spotlight: Mark Fallon – The Cross-Country Trail Skier

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As KYW put it, “there’s no such thing as a snow day for Mark Fallon,” a senior naturalist for 13 years at Briar Bush Nature Center in Abington. Following a news piece on Fallon in 2014, we caught up with him this week to interview him about his cross-country ski experiences on the Circuit Trails. Here’s what he had to say:

Most of the Mt. Airy community knows you as the “cross-country skier,” can you share when you first heard about the Circuit?

I have known about individual trails from the moment I moved to Philly in 2000. I lived in Fairmount and my wife (then girlfriend) and I biked the Schuylkill River Trail a lot, mostly Kelly Drive and MLK. I got on the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia mailing list around 2011, and soon became a member. I found out about the amazing advocacy on regional trails from them.

I remember the first time I went out skiing on the Circuit was in 2001 when I lived right by Kelly Drive. I went out on the Kelly Drive section of the SRT and don’t recall seeing anyone. My favorite time to go out skiing is when there are no cars so I can get on a trail without having to worry about taking off my skis too much. I enjoy the solitude, but I would love to see more people out there on snowy days. It’s a wonderful way to spend a “snow day.”

Can you describe your experience of cross-country skiing on the Circuit Trails? What trails do you ski on?

​Skiing on the trails is a rare treat and an adventure. Snow accumulations big enough for me to get out on the trails are rare. I don't believe in driving to a local trail to ski or bike. I have primarily skied along Forbidden Drive and nearby trails to my home in Mt. Airy. The one time I went out on Kelly Drive, when I lived downtown, there was absolutely no one out, virtually no roads had been plowed. I skied right across Kelly Drive in over a foot of snow.

Just last week during snow storm Jonas, I cross-country skied with a friend of mine on Forbidden Drive from my house. The trail was beautiful, calm and quiet with very few walkers and skiers. On a typical weekday or weekend on Forbidden Drive, you see hundreds of people running, cycling and walking with their dogs, which is wonderful, but it’s rare to have that solitude that you get in a snow storm.

Do you have any tips for future cross-country skiers on the trails?

Layers are important: Just like biking, you get hot when you’re exercising and when you stop you can cool down quickly in winter weather.

- Bring a snack.

- Bring a map or be prepared to know where you are going.

- Pay attention to the wind: When it’s very windy I won’t go out in a wooded area due to the danger of falling branches.

- Bring a buddy.

- Carry a fully charged cell phone.

In addition to skiing, do you enjoy cycling on the Circuit Trails?

I suffered a head injury at work a year and a half ago which has kept me off my bike. I typically commuted to work via my bike three to four times a week and am hoping to get back into it slowly this spring.

I love to bike the SRT to the Perkiomen Trail to Green Lane and also SRT out to Valley Forge and back. If all goes well, I would like to be able to bike to Millersville University in June. I attend the Native Plant Conference there every year for work and have biked out once. I would love to go via Chester Valley-Enola Low Grade Trails, so I look forward to continuing improvements there.

Are you excited for any other new trail developments on the Circuit?

I was primarily commuting to work in Abington, so I would love to see the Cresheim Valley and Tookany Creek Trails realized. I am really excited for a connection between the SRT and Chester Valley Trail through King of Prussia. I sometimes bike to visit family in Chesterbrook via the SRT and Valley Forge Park, but would love to be able to cut over to the Chester Valley Trail, so I eagerly await that connection. I follow the development updates through the Circuit Trails newsletter.

The trail system here is like nothing else in the country. It’s amazing when you look at website how extensive trail network is. 


Bike Commuting Tips from the 19,000-Mile Man

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By Jonathan DeHart

In my view, commuting by bike certainly has its advantages. It benefits your health and fitness in addition to helping clear your head before heading into the office, or after a long day at work. As a community, we should take advantage of the tremendous network of trails in our region.

Of course, commuting by bike doesn’t come without challenges. One of which is commuting in less than optimal conditions. Below is a list of tips and tricks I’ve developed over six consecutive years of commuting #onthecircuit:

  • Wear bright clothing (even a reflective vest or one of those vest that light up with little blinking lights). I see a lot of dark-clothing-clad bikers in the city, many riding without helmets. Yikes!
  • Use a powerful headlight, blinking rear light and blinking rear helmet or vest light when riding during times with less daylight. Lights are especially important when navigating connecting roads with auto traffic.
  • Command a single lane when the shoulder is not sufficiently wide. However, be prepared to relinquish the lane if an aggressive driver ups the risk ante. Use a rear view mirror on your helmet!
  • Plan for the unexpected – pedestrians, joggers, skaters and animals (horses, pets, geese, raccoons, etc.). People and animals can do the craziest, unexpected things!
  • Plan ahead to stay warm enough, but not so that you will be too warm and generate too much sweat. Go for layers!  Plan your clothing for when you’re warmed up. In cold weather, the first mile or two will always seem cold. You’ll warm up when your body’s heat systems are fully fired!
  • Take a break on days when there’s any ice on the road. It’s not worth the risk and tire chains don’t work well on a bike!
  • Ensure that you can keep yourself dry in cold rain. Carry waterproof booties in the winter.
  • Save up to purchase clipless insulated boots for temps in the 30s and below. You can often get good markdowns on these at the end of the winter. Happy feet make for a happy ride!
  • Carry extra clothing, tools, tubes, etc. in bike bags (panniers). That’s so much easier than in a pack.
  • Be extra cautious with wet weather riding; or muddy or icy conditions.
  • Give those you’re passing some advance notice – “On your right!” or a whistle.
  • Should you have an accident, do all you can to enlist others’ help in collecting names and phone numbers of those involved and/or witnesses.
  • Acknowledge every considerate, kind deference by others on the trail or road.  Each smile, nod or wave helps to educate others on the culture that we commuters are trying to foster.

Jonathan started walking and running on the trails in 1987 when he moved to the Jenkintown area, and from 2006-2012 biked about 19,000 commuting miles on the Circuit – 6,000 miles on the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT). To learn more about his journey, check out our previous Q&A with Jonathan here


Trail Development News: Governor Wolf Announces $28 Million DCNR Investment

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) announced an investment of $28 million for 176 projects across Pennsylvania! These projects include creating new recreational opportunities, conserving natural resources, revitalizing local communities and of particular interest to us, trail developments.

From this investment, the Circuit Trails received more than $2.46 million in grants for planning, designing and constructing trails! Several of these projects will also receive grant funding from DVRPC's Regional Trail Fund.

Below is the full list of Circuit Trails projects which received funding. You can find the full list of PA projects by clicking the following link: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_20031593.pdf

Bucks County

In Morrisville Borough, $60,000 was granted for design of approximately 0.10 miles of the D&L Canal Trail crossing Bridge Street. The design will include drawings, specifications and other related documents.

Delaware County/Chester County

$60,000 will be used to prepare a Comprehensive Recreation, Open Space and Greenways Plan for Chester City, Delaware County.

Montgomery County

Development of the Bridgeport Loop Trail in Bridgeport Borough was granted $331,000. The work will include construction of approximately 1.1 miles of trail from DeKalb Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, across the O'Neill Development Site, to DeKalb and West Front streets; ADA access, landscaping, project sign, signage and other related site improvements.

- $200,000 will be used to design approximately 3.5 miles of the Chester Valley Rail Trail in Upper Merion Township, Bridgeport, and Norristown boroughs, from South Gulph Road in Upper Merion Township to East Main Street in Norristown Borough.

- $160,000 will contribute to further developments of the Schuylkill River Trail in Lower Pottsgrove Township. The work will include construction of approximately 0.6 miles of trail from the Pottstown Borough line to the US 422 Bridge; ADA access, landscaping, project sign, signage and other related site improvements.

Northhampton County

Further development of the D&L Trail in North Catasauqua and Northampton boroughs will be granted $195,000. The work will include construction of approximately 1.3 miles of trail from Canal Park in Northampton Borough to the Lehigh County border in North Catasauqua Borough, pedestrian bridge, and culvert; ADA access, landscaping, project sign, signage and other related site improvements.

Philadelphia County

Natural Lands Trust, Inc. will receive a $350,000 payment toward the acquisition of approximately 35 acres along the Tacony Creek in the City of Philadelphia for open space, passive recreation and access to the Tacony Creek.

- $400,000 in payment will go toward the acquisition of approximately 1.9 acres located along Frankford Creek in the City of Philadelphia for open space, passive recreation and the development of the Frankford Creek Greenway.

- $60,000 will be used to design approximately 1 mile of the Pennypack Trail in Philadelphia from the Interstate 95 Overpass to Rawn Street.

- Philadelphia City Treasurer Streets Department was awarded $400,000 to design approximately 2.1 miles of the Spring Garden Street Greenway from the Delaware River Trail to the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia.

- Philadelphia Department of Commerce was awarded $250,000 to further develop the Delaware River Trail in Philadelphia. The work will include construction of approximately 0.75 miles of trail from Washington Avenue to Pier 70 Boulevard; ADA access, landscaping, project sign, signage and other related site improvements.


Advocating for Trails: Bike Bucks County

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Our friends at Bike Bucks County are making great strides in 2016 for bicycle advocacy across Bucks County. Bike Bucks County, an affiliate of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, started last March and is quickly gaining support from many advocates across the region. Their current mission is focused on making the Newtown Rail Trail a reality.

The Newtown Rail Trail is a proposed 8.4-mile trail that will connect users from the Newtown Borough all the way to the Pennypack Trail in Philadelphia, creating a vital link in the Circuit Trails. Bike Bucks County has been working with the Penn Tammany Greenway Coalition (PTGC), a volunteer group of residents in Bucks and Montgomery Counties whose mission is to transform SEPTA's Fox Chase - Newtown Line into a multi-use recreational trail.

Recently, the Bucks County Commissioners offered their support to design and engineer a plan for part of the Newtown Rail Trail. The cost for the design and engineering of the Upper Southampton part of the trail will be paid for through grants from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the William Penn Foundation. However, without the support of citizen and officials in each of the five municipalities, the complete trail will not be possible.

Over the last few months the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors delayed voting on a resolution to the formation of the trail. The reasoning behind the delay is wanting to hear from neighboring municipalities and area property owners near where the trail will run.

So far, Middletown Township and the George School are positive toward the idea, nevertheless there are still many others that have not voiced their opinions yet. This is why Bike Bucks County needs your help!

There are several ways residents are encouraged to get involved. One, sign the online petition here to ask the Bucks County Commissioner to implement the County Bicycle Master Plan that includes the Newtown Rail Trail. Another option is to attend a panel discussion this Wednesday, January 27th at 7 pm at Northampton Twp. Public Library, 25 Upper Holland Road, Richboro, PA 18954. For more information about the next panel discussion click here. Get involved to help make this incredible trail project a reality!


Green Initiative: Trees for Trails

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As you ride along the Camden Greenway, you may have noticed new trees and other foliage lining the trail. This greening of the Greenway is thanks to our friends at the New Jersey Tree Foundation! The NJ Tree Foundation, a Circuit Coalition partner, is continuing this effort in 2016 to give the Circuit Trails in Camden a face-lift through its Trees for Trails project. With support from the William Penn Foundation, the Trees to Trails project began in 2015 with the goal of beautifying the trails, parks and on-street bike paths throughout Camden.

In addition to creating beautiful scenery, there are many benefits to planting new trees along the trails. Did you know that removing the concrete and adding trees allows stormwater to filter naturally, therefore decreasing stormwater runoff that otherwise would end up in Camden’s combined sewer system where it contributes to flooding? Or did you know that an increased tree canopy can improve the air quality in the city of Camden? 

This past year, the NJ Tree Foundation and its volunteers planted maple, dogwood and redbud trees as well as other beautiful plants along the various Circuit Trails throughout Camden. Since its inception in 2002, the NJ Tree Foundation has planted more than 6,000 trees in the Camden area. As part of the Trees to Trails Project in the spring and fall of 2016, the NJ Tree Foundation will host a series of tree planting events open to the Camden community and general public. Many of the trails are part of the Camden Greenway, which provides access to open space for recreational, educational and leisure activities for residents. If you haven’t tested out trails in Camden yet, check out the Circuit Trails map of Camden County and plan your route!

Do you have a green thumb and are interested in volunteering, donating or learning more about the NJ Tree Foundation? Visit their website at www.njtreefoundation.org or contact Senior Program Director Jessica Franzini at .


Circuit Spotlight: Jonathan DeHart – The 19,000-Mile Man

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If you’re an avid cyclist, runner or walker, you’ve likely crossed paths with Jonathan DeHart on the Circuit Trails. Jonathan started walking and running on the trails in 1987 when he moved to the Jenkintown area, and from 2006-2012 cycled about 19,000 miles to and from work every day – 6,000 miles on the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT). As one of many “frequent flyers” on the Circuit Trails, Jonathan’s experiences are nothing short of incredible and fascinating! Check out a few highlights below:

How many miles did you ride when you commuted on the Circuit and what trails did you take?

My family and I have felt amazingly blessed to have access to all the trails in the Delaware Valley, even right within the Philly urban area.  However, we didn’t know of the concerted effort to interconnect them until recently.

Of my 40 mile daily commute from Glenside to the Philly Naval Shipyard, I did about 12 miles on the SRT and occasionally added Forbidden Drive. There’s a great tranquility to be enjoyed as one glides along the Schuylkill River in the early morning and at the end of a long work day!

Can you share your relationship to trails?

During my early years in this area, I was primarily running with my wife or alone. As God gave us each of our three children, we transitioned to pushing one or more in a single or double jogger. One by one they moved onto two wheeling and/or running.

From 1987-2006, I logged 32,000 miles of running while training on the Pennypack walking and bridle trails, Forbidden Drive, Horseshoe Trail and Tyler State Park. As a family, we've also hiked a lot of the off-road trails on either side of Forbidden Drive, Pennypack and the Appalachian Trail.

What’s your favorite trail?

Of those with which I’m familiar, the Perkiomen stands out. The mostly hard-packed dirt trail hugs the narrow Perkiomen Creek. It’s beautiful, peaceful and not heavily trafficked. As a family, we made most of our memories in Pennypack, Forbidden Drive and the Appalachian Trail.

We’re really looking forward to the Cresheim Valley and Tookany Creek trails being developed. We’ll be able to hop on the trails in less than a mile or so from our home in Glenside, PA. We can’t wait!

Can you share a few advantages of commuting on the Circuit?

Commuting by bike benefits one’s health and fitness. It also helps to clear one’s head and recharge. As humans we were designed to physically work hard and find time to unwind for R&R. We really need to be outside daily, moving and exerting ourselves! This is especially important for those of us with primarily desk jockey jobs. Biking does have its risks (I’ve had two serious commuting accidents), but those are greatly mitigated on the Circuit Trails.

How has the Circuit changed your lifestyle?

The trails in this region have had an enormous influence on our family. We have all grown to love the outdoors, make exercise routines and enjoy God’s creation! Personally, I have worked in air quality for more than 15 years. Engine exhaust pollutants have serious public health impacts, especially for children and the elderly. So the less time I’m driving, the less I am contributing to that significant problem. Biking also includes cost savings. Maintaining and fueling a bike costs much less than a car! 

I’ve also become much more willing to be outside in less than optimal conditions. In the heat, runners, bikers and walkers generate their own AC! When it’s cold, they have heaters driven by those pumping arms and legs. Recently, our youngest left the house when it was in the low 20s to ride over to Kutztown and back. He let me tag along, and I did 60 of his 105 miles. Long winter rides are really not such a big deal, with a few additional clothing items.

Aside from riding on the Circuit, you have quite the long history of competitions. Can you share a little background?

Before I moved on to biking as my primary outdoor activity, I was an avid runner. I found my niche in ultramarathons. Ultrarunning does not require special physical attributes. Like life in general, it just calls for continuing to put one foot in front of the other. It develops grit – sticking to the task at hand!

I also discovered that as my body is kept busy with the simple activity of running, my mind is freed to focus. So I applied that focus to review and think about passages of the Bible that I had committed to memory. This helped me to stimulate productive thought, even during competition. A few of my competitive high points include the following:

-Finished third (7:37) on a continental coast-to-coast run in Panama! Yup, down there it’s only 50.5 miles, following the Trans-Isthmus Highway! This tropical rainforest race starts at 10 p.m. to temper the sweltering heat and humidity. I finished at sunrise, well ahead of a bevy of U.S. Special Forces young bucks.

-Finished second (19:30) in the Old Dominion 100 Mile, a footrace and horseback race. The second and third place horseback riders finished just a few minutes before me.

-Finished first (11:48), setting a course record, in the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Ohiopyle-to-Johnstown trail course. The course is arguably one of the toughest ultras with 10,300 ft elevation gain and loss.

As our family grew, I ratcheted back on the miles and started pushing the kids in joggers, doing more marathons and shorter runs (5Ks and 10Ks). Here’s one highlight competing with our kids:

-Finished 12th (3:12) in the Potter County God’s Country Marathon and qualifying for the Boston Marathon on that 1,100 ft elevation gain course.

For all the bike lovers out there, what model do you ride?

I’ve used a hybrid bike for all my commuting. My 2006 Marin Mill Valley is an 18-speed (Gossamer FSA chain rings and crank and Shimano Tiagra deraillers) with carbon fork and seatstay, 32 spoke alloy 700c wheels (Shimano Ultegra), and Continental Contact 700 (28 x 1 ¼ x 1 ¾) tires with fenders, a back rack and two panniers, Blackburn headlight on the end of my straight bar-fitted aerobars and wide Cateye blinking taillight. A bike like this is a great compromise between ruggedness and speed.

Keep an eye out for a guest blog post from the 19,000-mile man on tips for commuting!

Photo Credit: Jonathan DeHart

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Partner Post: Greater Philadelphia’s Burgeoning Trail Network

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By Anya Saretzky, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

In the northeast part of the U.S., a bi-state project called the Circuit Trails is making waves in the walking and biking world. This network, when complete, will include 750 miles of trails in the Greater Philadelphia region covering nine counties in southeast Pennsylvania and South Jersey. Today, 300 miles are complete, with 50 currently in development and 400 yet to be built. Completion is slated for 2040. It’s an ambitious plan, no doubt, but it’s one that captures a vision the region has embraced and will see to completion.

Read more about the region's burgeoning network and the elements that make the Circuit Trails a strong and thriving project on the Rails-to-Trails blog: http://bit.ly/1P3kbcO

Photo courtesy: Mark Willard


A Look Back: 2015 Trail Development

It’s been a great year for trail developments in Philadelphia! The City of Philadelphia released the 2015 Philadelphia Trail Plan Update, which reflects the work in the past year of the Philadelphia Trail Committee and non-profit trail development partners.

As we move on to 2016, let’s take a look at last year’s notable accomplishments:

  • 23 completed miles of trail between the beginning of the planning process in 2011 and the end of 2015!

  • 4 miles of trail under construction, including a major link along the North Delaware Trail, the Baxter Trail and two sections of the Schuylkill River Trail

  • 11 miles of trail in planning

  • 19 miles of trail in preliminary or final design, including portions of the Tacony Creek Trail, Frankford Creek Greenway Phase 1 and 2 and K&T Trail Phases 1 and 2

Additionally, several notable projects were completed on the Circuit, including the Manayunk Bridge Trail that links bicyclists and pedestrians between Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties and the extension of North Delaware Avenue from Lewis Street to Orthodox Street in Bridesburg.

Lastly, let’s talk trail funding. The City of Philadelphia and trail development partners secured more than $14.5 million in state, federal and local funding for construction, design and planning studies for trail projects in 2015.

Click to read the full report: http://www.phila.gov/CityPlanning/plans/PDF/PhilaTrailPlan_2015Update.pdf

We are looking forward to our continued Circuit Trails partnerships in 2016! 

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Circuit Spotlight: Caitlin Teefey

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By Anya Saretzky 

The Ben Franklin Bridge is an iconic feature in the Greater Philadelphia region. Spanning the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, it is a vital connector for both vehicular and non-motorized traffic, but not without its challenges.

Caitlin Teefey recently relocated from Pensacola, Florida to Philadelphia and gets around almost exclusively by bike. In Pensacola, she reports, that would have been impossible. Currently, she’s completing her degree in Healthcare Administration while simultaneously serving as her nephew’s full-time nanny. And because her nephew’s favorite activity is riding on the back of his aunt’s bike, they spend plenty of time exploring the Circuit Trails!

One of their first outings on the Circuit Trails was across the river to Camden’s Adventure Aquarium by way of the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Camden GreenWay. “We could have taken the easy way and just drove but we decided that biking over the Ben Franklin Bridge would be a better way to see the city. It’s great exercise and it’s doable. And I didn’t want to pay the toll!”

At the end of her voyage across the bridge, a surprise was in store for her: “I had no idea there would be those extremely steep and narrow stairs. Balancing the bike with a baby on the back was a challenge, but well worth it.”  Luckily, she was with her brother who could help her safely carry her bike with the baby aboard down the stairs. 

Without someone to lend a hand, Caitlin says she is unwilling to take her nephew over the bridge. “By myself, it would be unsafe. It’s just way too narrow. Taking the baby out [of the bike seat] would be too huge of a deal.” If there was a ramp, Caitlin says she would take the trip over the bridge every day. She also thinks that many more people would use the bridge if a ramp was constructed.

Caitlin was happy to hear that plans are in the works to build a ramp on the Camden side of the bridge. The project is currently close to the end of final design. The Delaware River Port Authority reports that the project will be put out to bid for construction in 2016. Construction will take about a year to complete.

Once the ramp is complete, we hope to see many more families making the trip over the Ben Franklin Bridge! 


Circuit Spotlight: Meet the Circuit Coalition’s New Jersey Vice-Chair Olivia Glenn

Olivia Glenn does it all. From balancing her career as the South Jersey Metro Regional Manager of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, to her role as a wife and mother of two children under 7-years old, to her newest role as the New Jersey Vice-Chair, Olivia has learned a thing or two about multi-tasking. We interviewed the new NJ Vice-Chair to get to know her better! Here’s what the Camden native had to say:

What’s your role at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation?

My geographic focus comprises the urbanized corridors of Gloucester, Camden, Burlington and Mercer Counties with a special emphasis on the City of Camden. My work includes land preservation, park planning and working with the Circuit Coalition.

How long have you worked on the Circuit Trails?

New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been involved with the Circuit Trails since its inception. I joined the effort in 2014.

What makes the Circuit so unique?

The Circuit Trail enhances our connectivity by making the numerous, regional trail projects part of a larger whole, whereby the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Circuit Trails also pushes us beyond the conventional notions of “sense of place” that we associate with singular, discrete destinations. The Circuit propels us in a watershed context and helps reinforce that we are all connected.

What’s your favorite Circuit trail?

The Camden Greenway Phase One Loop on the Cooper River Trail… particularly in Farnham Park in Camden. I am a native of the City of Camden, and this park is also where I cultivated my love of nature. It is surreal to have the opportunity in my professional life to improve a place that is so special to me.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working on the Circuit Coalition?

I have learned that there are many great examples of trails bringing communities together right here in the Delaware Valley! Trails have been a great nexus to bring together multiple stakeholders, including transportation experts, environmentalists, hospitals, schools and corporations with local communities. One great example on the PA side is the St. Luke's Hospital's tailonthetrail.org initiative on the D&L Trail. 

On the NJ side, I think of the wonderful work done in Mercer County on the Lawrence Hopewell Trail where the community, corporations, county government, nonprofits and trail advocates came together to create a great shared space.

Why should NJ residents take time to appreciate the Circuit Trails? What impact does it have for their community?

Getting on the Circuit is good for us on both a personal and a community level. On a personal level, it can improve our health outcomes and make us happier, as studies have shown. On a community level, there are environmental, economic and social benefits. Investing in and giving back to green spaces always gives back! We've seen the benefits of trails on property values and how retail establishments located along trails draw business from trail users. Beyond recreational and economic benefits for a community, trails can be very utilitarian for transportation and commuting.  

What is your favorite time of year to experience the Circuit?

October. I love when the leaves change color and it’s comfortable enough to enjoy being outdoors without breaking a sweat…or freezing!

What are your goals for the upcoming year?

Four major goals are: (1) working with resident counties and local partners to secure stable sources of funding, including but not limited to NJTIP, TAP, and TE; (2) promoting the Circuit Trails through social media with partners and trail users so that it is very recognizable to a greater segment of the general population; (3) touting the existing beautiful trails, proposed projects and engaged partners that are in New Jersey; and (4) mobilizing new stakeholders to become Circuit Trails partners.

Photo: Olivia Glenn standing on the newly opened 0.6-mile long Delaware Avenue Extension Trail 

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Eight Great December Destinations on the Circuit!

By Katie Harris

While it’s easy to stay bundled and cozy at home this December, there are great things to see all along the Circuit Trails this December!

1. Join clinical herbalist Kelly McCarthy on Sunday, December 13 for a hands-on Herbalists Workshop and Family Artists’ Workshop at Bartram’s Garden! According to the event website, workshop participants will “learn about the medicinal and historic use of bitters and explore the ways they might benefit digestion and overall health.” And the best part? You won’t leave empty handed! Participants will take home two bottles of bitters each.  Find more information here: http://bartramsgarden.org/calendar/2015-12-13/

Nearest Circuit Trail: Schuylkill River Trail

2. Further north on the Circuit, the Sigal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania has plenty going on! On Saturday, December 12, learn about the Battle of the Bulge from WWII Veteran, Morris Metz, who will be joined by two other veterans and will speak about his experience serving under General George Patton.  Find more information here: http://sigalmuseum.org/schedule-of-events/

Nearest Circuit Trail: Delaware and Raritan Canal

3. Think Santa is just a land-faring gentleman? Think again! Meet Scuba Santa at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey. It’s not often that you find St. Nick and a hammerhead shark in one place. Don’t miss it! Find more information here: https://www.adventureaquarium.com/What-to-do-in-new-jersey/Daily-Shows-and-Feeds/Meet-Scuba-Santa

Nearest Circuit Trail: Camden GreenWay

4. Families in Mercer County have a great resource in the Tulpehaking Nature Center, right off of the Delaware and Raritan Canal. Various exhibits and events, including a birdhouse building workshop, naturalist-led hikes, and wildlife scavenger hunts, are being held over the month of December. Find more information here: http://mercercountyparks.org/calendar/

Nearest Circuit Trail: Delaware and Raritan Canal

5. Have you ever eaten breakfast, “chowline style,” on a battleship? We didn’t think so. On Saturday, December 12 you’ll get the chance to do just that on the famed Battleship New Jersey in Camden! Hot breakfast will be followed by a tour of the Battleship. Find more information here: http://www.battleshipnewjersey.org/news_events/?startrow=10

Nearest Circuit Trail: Camden GreenWay

6. Make the journey to Valley Forge and take part in the Annual March In of the Continental Army Commemoration on December 19. You’ll learn about General George Washington’s Continental Army’s arrival to Valley Forge in 1777 and the difficulties they faced during their encampment. After a candle-lit walk to the Muhlenberg Brigade huts, where you’ll learn about the encampment from a living continental camp, swing by the Visitor Center for refreshments and  18th century music. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/march_in.htm

Nearest Circuit Trail: Valley Forge Trail (Joseph Plumb Martin Trail)

7.  Did you know that President Obama signed one of Camden artist William Butler’s paintings, “Invincible Promise”? When the president visited Camden in May of this year, he signed the painting to commemorate his visit. See the painting, and new pieces by Butler, during Camden’s Third Thursday Art Crawl on December 17. Butler’s work will be presented at Gallery Eleven One and other art events and showings will happen along the Art Crawl route. Find more information here: http://www.camdenwaterfront.com/calendar.php

Nearest Circuit Trail: Camden GreenWay

8.  One would be hard-pressed to find more of a winter wonderland than Cooper River Park’s WinterFest. Lights, treats and ice skating round out this fantastic destination. Can’t make it to WinterFest during the month of December? No problem. The event runs through February 14, 2016. Find more information here: skatewinterfest.com

Nearest Circuit Trail: Cooper River Trail

Whatever and wherever you’re celebrating this year, spend a little time exploring the Circuit Trails!

Photo Courtesy of Camden County Board of Freeholders

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Summary of November 2015 Semi-Annual Circuit Trails Coalition Meeting

Twice a year, the Circuit Coalition convenes for a two hour meeting to review progress and accomplishments from the six months. Here is a review of the Semi-Annual Circuit Trails Coalition Meeting held on November 19th:

Traditional, Shared, and Social Media Report

Brianna Taylor of Devine and Partners (D+P) reported that Circuit media efforts have reached over 130 million people through more than 141 online and broadcast placements. These media placements have an estimated value of over $400,000. The D+P team also reported that the Circuit Trails' hashtag: #onthecircuit has gained traction across social media platforms. Additionally, social media advertising and boosted Facebook posts have been very successful, generating 82% of all Facebook likes. See her presentation here.

Branding Campaign Update

As discussed by Katie Harris of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the new Circuit Trails logo was soft-launched at the end of October! The "Proud to Trail" campaign and new website will launch in the spring with the opening of trail season. 

Mileage Update

Chris Linn of DVRPC reported that 28 miles of Circuit Trails were completed between May 2012 and May 2014 and 12 miles were completed between May 2014 and November 2015. Forty-one miles are expected to be finished by late 2018. Nearly one hundred miles are in the pipeline which means they are either under design or studies have been completed.

Circuit Surveys

Tom Sexton, Liz Sewell, and Anya Saretzky of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy reported on the trail user surveys program. Survey types include trail-side, intercept, focus group and phone. Results show that most trail users are unaware of the Circuit Trails and that trail use results in significant economic impact for local communities. 

DVRPC Trail Use Count Update

DVRPC’s Shawn Megill Legendre reported that there are now 12 permanent counters on trails throughout the region. Trails that are better connected and are close to where people live and work have higher usage levels. All of the data is public and can be found here for permanent counters and here for short term counters.

Case Studies and Lessons Learned

Olivia Glenn of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Sue Brennan of Coopers Ferry Partnership, and Jack Sworaski of Camden County presented about the Cooper River Trail which runs through five municipalities. Their lessons learned can be summed up as “PEDAL” - Persistence & Partnerships, Easements & Education, Diversified funding streams and programming, Advocacy, Local engagement.

Paul Gordon from Bucks County Planning Commission and Michael Stokes from Montgomery County Planning Commission spoke about the cross-county partnership that is building the Pennypack Trail. Key takeaways include using county dollars, saving money by keeping labor in-house, and growing public support by building the trail one section at a time to let people see what the trail will look like.


Dedication Ceremony of Phase 1A of Delaware Avenue Extension

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‘Never say never’ was the theme that followed Wednesday’s dedication ceremony in Bridesburg. Community members and city leaders convened Wednesday to celebrate the opening of Phase 1A of the Delaware Avenue Extension project – a new 0.6 roadway and trail project built along the Delaware Riverfront Greenway in Northeast Philadelphia that has been in discussion for more than 20 years!

Phase 1A of the extension, connecting Port Richmond to Bridesburg, includes a 0.6-mile section of new roadway, a bridge over the Frankford Creek and an adjacent multi-use trail segment extending from Lewis Street to Orthodox Street.

Officials, including Mayor Nutter, Denise Goren, director of the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis, Commissioner of Streets Department David J. Perri and Former U.S. Congressman Robert Borski as well as Tom LaCroix, an active member of the Board of the Bridesburg Business Association gave remarks at the ceremony and reflected on the impact the project has already had on the Bridesburg community as well as Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter commented that the project is a “win, win, win,” providing a vital, direct route to and from I-95 for the industries, improving access to the waterfront and relieving the Bridesburg community of significant truck traffic on their neighborhood streets that has been degrading their quality of life.

And while the new road segment alleviates the truck traffic, the new multi-use trail opens opportunities for residents to broaden their own transportation choices and accommodates pedestrian crossings. As the project evolves, the trail will be used for commuters to bypass traffic congestion and ride right along the river to get to work.

Goren described the project as the first new road to open in the city in 30 years. When speaking about the new trail Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis commented on how far we’ve come, adding that trails have become an integral part of Philadelphia. The addition of a multi-use trail was an integral element, especially when considering residents’ quality of life. Residents (for decades) have requested access to the river for recreational use. Now, residents can take advantage of this unseasonably warm weather and get out on the trail!  

And local residents have already seen the positive impact! A resident on Orthodox Street commented that traffic volume has decreased on his street since the road was opened in late November. The resident also observed significant more yellow school busses on Delaware Avenue. The bus operation is at the end of Orthodox Street and, prior to the opening, bus drivers had no choice but to use Orthodox and travel through the neighborhood – creating further traffic congestion! As the project evolves, a trail will be built at Magee Street, located at the back of a Charter School currently in development, allowing students from neighboring communities to use the trail to get to school.

The federally funded $14.5 million project, which broke ground last spring is yet another reminder of the power of collaboration, perseverance and vision. “This multi-layered project shows just how much progress can happen when entities, public and private, across the city collaborate,” Mayor Nutter said. The inclusion of the trail in the Delaware Avenue Extension shows that solutions for transportation challenges in Philadelphia extend beyond motorized travel. In fact, infrastructure that supports walking and biking are widely recognized as indispensable elements of projects like these.

Officials thanked the Delaware River City Corporation, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Streets Department, Urban Engineers, Buckley Company and others for their collaboration on the project.

Congressman Borski praised the Mayor for his work expanding roads and trails commenting:
“This is a great day for Philadelphia and particularly for Bridesburg and Port Richmond. A big part of Philadelphia being a world class city are world class neighborhoods. To have this beautiful trail – the connector to the rest of Delaware Avenue – is nothing short of a miracle.”

And this project is just the beginning for what’s to come in Bridesburg. Phase 1B, set to begin in 2017 and be completed in 2018, will continue the extension of Delaware Avenue north from Orthodox to Buckius Street – creating a mile of new trail and roadway in total. By 2020, officials hope to see Delaware Avenue extended as far as the Frankford Boat Launch, where it is planned to link with I-95. When the project is complete, there will be 11 miles of new trail stretching from Allegheny to Grant Avenue!

Residents are looking forward to using the piece just built that will connect Bridesburg to Port Richmond. As the trail gets pushed north into the Frankford Boat Launch, it will connect Bridesburg and Port Richmond to a recreational park. The Wissinoming, Port Richmond and Bridesburg neighborhoods will all have access to trail and the river.

Also in development is a new riverfront park in Bridesburg, a 10-acre park that will be connected to the Delaware Avenue Extension. Final park designs will be presented at a public community meeting next Wednesday, Dec. 16 from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

Please visit http://www.delawareaveextension.com/ for more information and check out Philly.com and Curbed Philly to read more about Phase 1A of the Delaware Avenue Extension Project. 

Image 1: The new 0.6 mile-long trail and roadway; Image 2: Aerial view of Phase 1A of the Delaware Avenue Extension Project; Image 3: Cyclists enjoying the new trail on the Delaware Avenue Extension 

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Tips for a Healthy and Safe Workout #OnTheCircuit This Winter

December marks the start of winter, but that should not put a stop to your outdoor workout regimen! In fact, according to Women’s Health, your endorphin production is boosted even more in the winter because your body has to work harder in the cold. Below find 10 quick tips for braving the outdoors #onthecircuit this winter:

1. Motivate yourself with a buddy!

It’s easy to wimp out on a cold and even dark day. But, you’re much more likely to head outdoors when you schedule a date to run, cycle or walk with friends or family. Call a friend and make it a social occasion!

2. Stretch and warm up

To avoid pulling or straining a muscle, which is more likely in cold temperatures, get your blood moving with a dynamic warm up and stretches before you start.

3. Layer up!

When you look at your weather app and it says 30 degrees, your first instinct may be to throw on a heavy coat. Instead, wear several light layers, ideally synthetic materials which dry quickly, so that you can expel your heat! Make sure to change into dry clothes immediately after a workout to avoid a chill.

4. Safety first

Safety should be your first priority when you’re planning your winter route, and with limited daylight hours during the winter months, it is especially important. Plan your route in advance and carry a cell phone to have in case of emergency. Also, wear reflective gear, carry a flashlight, or if you are cycling, make sure your reflectors are on. You don’t want to have a collision with a fellow trail user #onthecircuit!

5. Start your workout into the wind

We all hate those windy days, but what’s a great workout without a little challenge? Start your workout #onthecircuit into the wind and finish with the wind against your back for a nice cooldown.

6. Hydrate!

If you’re thirsty, it’s your body’s way of telling you to drink water! Make sure you are drinking enough water not only after your run, but also before and during. It may be cold, but you are still sweating, so replenishing your body’s liquids is critical.  

7. Cover your extremities

On cold days, blood flow becomes concentrated in your body’s core. Your head, hands, feet and ears are more vulnerable to wind chill and frostbite. Be sure to cover these areas with hats, gloves and thermal socks!

8. Wear sunscreen

Despite common misconception, you can just as easily get a sunburn in the winter as the summer. Be sure to apply sunscreen before you head outside.

9. On very cold days, keep your workouts short

Carefully monitor the weather forecast to ensure you’re going #onthecircuit in safe conditions. On very cold days, trust your body and consider shortening your work out.

10. Watch your step

Make sure you’re wearing proper footwear and watch out for slippery leaves and ice patches!


Philadelphia’s First-Ever Vision Zero Conference

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By Sarah Clark Stuart, Acting Executive Director, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is teaming with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for Vision Zero Philadelphia, the first-ever Vision Zero Conference in Philadelphia. It will take place at Thomas Jefferson University on December 3, 2015.

Vision Zero is a policy that seeks to reduce all traffic deaths in a given area to zero in a given amount of time, and we believe many citywide organizations — City Hall, the Philadelphia Police Department, and hospitals, among others — have an important stake in this important issue. Guests and speakers will join us from all over the country to tell us about what works, and what doesn’t, to create a safer Philadelphia for people on bikes, pedestrians and people in cars.

Philadelphia’s new administration is committed to reducing road injuries and deaths through implementing a Vision Zero policy.

Vision Zero is based on the concept that road crashes are not accidents, but are preventable events.

Through education, engineering and enforcement, road deaths, currently totaling nearly 100 per-year in Philadelphia, can be reduced to zero.

National experts in safety, design, engineering, education and enforcement from both the public and private sectors will share their expertise and experience to help lay the groundwork for a goal and action plan that is tailored to Philadelphia and employs best practices. Join us for a day of speakers, panels and break out-sessions focused on this crucial safety issue.

If you would like to be a part of Vision Zero Philadelphia, please click here.


Enjoying Cooler Weather #OnTheCircuit

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By Steve Taylor

The arrival of cooler weather can give new perspectives on The Circuit Trails. For Linda McGrane, President of the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, getting out in the later months is about enjoying “the crisp, refreshing autumn air, as well as the colorful fall foliage. As long as the roads are clear and dry—that is, free of snow and ice—I continue to cycle into the winter months.”

Jed Kornbluh, national sales manager for cyclewear company Verge Sport, is also a year-round cyclist. His favorite Circuit segments to ride this time of year are both on the Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail. “The first is from Stockton to Milford (and on to Easton if you cross the river into Pennsylvania), and the second is Lambertville to Kingston. These are two very different trails. The first section starts and finishes along leaf-swept gravel and cinder with the river on the western edge and rolling country highway Route 29 on the east. The other stretch starts in the bustling village of Lambertville, rolls along through historic Washington Crossing State Park and eventually goes from country to urban just after the Trenton Country Club section.”

Jed has this cool weather tip: “Remember to layer. This time of year can be tricky, with mornings in the 30s and afternoons in the 50s. It's best to pack a variety of clothing but the best options include vests, light jackets or convertible items (with removable sleeves). When I travel on the canal paths I generally ride a bike equipped with a large handlebar bag, which has enough space for tools, food and spare clothes.”

To this, Linda adds, “Remember also to cover your head, hands and feet adequately. Body heat escapes most quickly through the extremities. Another important point: Even when the temperature is cooler, you still need to stay hydrated.”

When the temperatures get wintry, John Boyle, research director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, uses some special gear for his often windy bike commute across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, including handlebar mittens and a face-shielding balaclava. In the coldest weather, he breaks out his ski helmet, goggles and electric socks.

On the weekends, John enjoys getting out with his family for walks on The Circuit in less specialized attire. “The Pennypack and Perkiomen are great walking trails, but the D&L Trail may be the best. I like the Nockamixon Cliffs / Palisades section.”

Linda also enjoys the Pennypack Trail, especially the hillier part between Bustleton Avenue and Pine Road. She appreciates trails that allow her to ride parallel to busy and non-bike-friendly roads. “I like the Chester Valley Trail, since it allows me to cycle safely up and down the Route 202 Corridor. The Leiper-Smedley Trail near Swarthmore lets me ride near and over the Blue Route.

“Continuing to cycle outdoors, regardless of the cooler temperatures, provides a therapeutic dose of daylight and allows you to remain connected with other people and with the environment.”

Photo Credit: Photo 1 Jed Kornbluh (on D&R Canal Trail); Photo 2 Howard Hess (on Chester Valley Trail)

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Tricks & Tips to Stay Active During Thanksgiving

The big family-filled feast is around the corner and it’s easy to forgo your usual fitness routine in favor of food, football, friends and family. Here are some easy tips to get you outdoors #onthecircuit and beyond during this Thanksgiving holiday.

1. Participate in a Turkey Trot. Did you know that Thanksgiving Day is the most popular day to run? Thanksgiving actually surpasses the Fourth of July as the most popular race day. Philly Mag compiled a list of local Turkey Trots here. Not a runner? Most of the races also include a one-mile walk.

2. Plan a post-meal walk. Plan a walk with friends and family before the holiday rolls around, that way when the big day comes even if you’re feeling lethargic after a large meal, you can’t bail out! Check out the Circuit Trails map to find a trail near you.

3. Play flag football. Don’t have a big back yard? Not to worry, many of the Circuit Trails run through large green spaces that are perfect for setting up a little friendly competition.

4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate… with water! Of course all the festive cocktails, sparkling cider and seasonal wines are tempting, but it’s important to make sure you are still drinking enough water. Drinking water helps reduce hunger and will help you be ready for a workout the next morning #onthecircuit!

5. Schedule a workout for the next morning. Plan to meet one of your usual workout companions for an early morning bike ride, walk or run. You will feel much more awake and ready to take on the day.

Photo credit: Taylor Fleming. Follower her on Instagram at @fleming.philly.photog

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Join Us: Dedication Ceremony for Phase 1 of Delaware Avenue Extension #OnTheCircuit

Help us celebrate the opening of Phase 1 of the Delaware Avenue Extension – a new road and trail project built along the Delaware Riverfront Greenway in Northeast Philadelphia. The extension, connecting Port Richmond to Bridesburg, includes a 1-mile section of roadway, a bridge over the Frankford Creek and an extension of a multi-use trail extending from Lewis Street to Orthodox street. In addition to connecting the communities, the project provides a vital and direct route to the industries situated north of Lewis Street, relieving the Bridesburg community from large truck traffic from Interstate 95 on their neighborhood streets and improving access for waterfront businesses.

The trail will extend Philadelphia’s segment of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile long multi-use trail that runs from Maine to Florida, and connect with the existing multi-use trail that ends at Lewis Street, expanding Philadelphia’s already impressive network of bicycle lanes. The project was originally funded through a federal transportation earmark of $3.5 million by then Congressman Bob Borski in the late 1990s. Over 15 years later, it’s complete, albeit at a much higher cost.

Mayor Nutter confirmed his attendance at the dedication on Tuesday, December 8th at 11 a.m.  An exact location has yet to be determined but we wanted to make you aware of the event and hope to get it on your calendar! As further details become available you will be informed as soon as we have them.

Additional Information on the Roadway and Greenway:

The Delaware Avenue Extension is a new road and trail project built along the Delaware Riverfront Greenway in Northeast Philadelphia. The roadway is managed by the Streets Department and the greenway is being developed by the Delaware River City Corporation; a nonprofit organized by former Congressman Robert A. Borski, and charged with connecting the adjacent communities to the Delaware River. The trail is also a part of the East Coast Greenway, a 3000-mile long multi-use trail that runs from Maine to Florida.  

The federally funded project was designed by Urban Engineers, Inc. and Buckley Company, Inc. is performing the construction, which started in March 2014 and completed in November 2015.

This project constructed a 1-mile section of roadway, a bridge over the Frankford Creek and an extension of a multi-use trail extending from Lewis Street to Orthodox Street.  It connects Port Richmond to Bridesburg and will provide a direct route to the industries situated north of Lewis Street relieving the Bridesburg community from large truck traffic on their neighborhood streets. 

The bridge crossing the Frankford Creek is 160' in length.  It is a single span, welded plate girder bridge. The 30'-wide road will have a 6'-wide sidewalk on one side and a 10'-12'-wide multiuse asphalt trail on the other. Significant landscaping and new street lights are also a part of the project.

The finished project will provide much needed relief from neighborhood truck traffic in Bridesburg and will extend the 1.5-mile trail in Port Richmond to Orthodox Street, directly connecting both neighborhoods and begin to close a gap in the riverfront trail system.  


Commuting #OnTheCircuit

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Written By: Steve Taylor

Take a ride on The Circuit and you could end up exploring a new trail, crossing a bridge into another town and having a picnic along a river. Or you might end up at work. Fortunately, in the latter case, the trip has the potential to make your commute—and your workday—much better.

Caitlin Youngster commutes by bike from her home in Center City Philadelphia to the architecture firm where she works in Conshohocken. “My commute is just under 15 miles each way and almost all of it is on the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT). As someone who grew up in suburban Florida, it is incredible to me that I can work 15 miles away from where I live and I still don’t own a car.

“If the Schuylkill River Trail didn’t exist, I don’t think I would bike to work. Without the SRT, the ride would involve big hills, busy roads and a commute that would be much different from the serene and stress-free ride that I enjoy now.”

Howard Hess uses several Circuit trails to commute from his home to his workplace, Johnson Matthey in Audubon. “My current commute is 14 miles each way. I live about a quarter mile from the Perkiomen Trail. My route takes me on the Perkiomen, the SRT and the Audubon Loop, then through a housing development and a few back roads. Roughly 11 of those 14 miles are via Circuit trails.

“I really enjoy the way I come into work fully awake and exhilarated after my ride. I can spend the time I’m riding planning out my day, thinking about how I may approach some of the challenges in work.”

James Rebarchak also uses the Perkiomen Trail and the SRT on his commute to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s office in Norristown. Like Johnson Matthey, the DEP office supports bike commuting and participated in the National Bike Challenge this year. “This past bike season we had 19 employees who biked during the challenge. We logged 1062 days riding and 22,260.5 miles. We have a couple very dedicated riders who live along or near the SRT who try to commute as often as possible. One employee biked 152 out of 153 days during the 2015 Bike Challenge. An employee who lives in Reading would drive down to Lower Perkiomen Valley Park and then bike in from there.

“This past year our office received the League of American Bicyclists’ Silver designation as a Bike Friendly Business (BFB). We were excited about receiving this designation and are looking to grow the number of employees who will commute by bicycle. As part of the BFB program, we updated directions to our office to remind visitors that we are located along the SRT, and with advance notice we can arrange for secure bike parking for them.”

James takes advantage of his office’s location on the SRT for the commute home, and he also makes use of another Circuit trail. “I’ll extend the ride in Graterford when I take the Skippack Trail into Skippack before getting on the roads to Harleysville.”

Howard belives that, “commuting by bike is something that many people can do. It requires some planning, preparation and flexibility, but once you’ve got a system down, it is a very enjoyable way to commute. [At Johnson Matthey] we’ve got a few that have added it to their routine after talking through the idea with experienced riders.”

Like James, Caitlin also likes to vary or extend her route on the way home. “I think the best part of The Circuit is the way it connects places. Sometimes I will jump off the trail at Shawmont and cut over to Forbidden Drive, my favorite place in Philadelphia. I would often leave the trail at Green Lane in Manayunk and ride along the Cynwyd Heritage Trail. I’m incredibly excited about the opening of the Manayunk Bridge, which makes this portion of the ride infinitely better!”

Photo Credit: Photo 1 Caitlin Youngster; Photo 2 James Rebarchak; Photo 3 Caitlin Youngster; Photo 4 James Rebarchak

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Trailside Grub #OnTheCircuit

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By Steve Taylor

A trip on The Circuit is always better when it includes a trailside snack or drink.

A Pennsylvania and New Jersey loop on the Delaware Canal Towpath and the Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail might include stops at the Point Pleasant Village Store, the Bridge Cafe in Frenchtown or one of the coffee shops in Lambertville within a block from the trail, like Rojo’s.

Exploring the Perkiomen Trail? Have breakfast at the Collegeville Diner, then head toward Green Lane. On the way back to Collegeville, share a stromboli at Moccia’s Train Stop in Schwenksville.

Then there are some destinations that exist because of a trail. They were conceived by trail users and advocates and designed to meet the needs of those who would start, end or take a break from their trips there.

Ken Fields, owner of Outbound Station, has ridden on the Schuylkill River Trail for over 20 years. While biking through Conshohocken, he would often stop at an antique store in the old train station sitting on a hill above the trail.

When the owners decided to close their antique business and lease the property for another use, Ken immediately saw the potential. He knew that he wasn’t the only one who would like a place to warm up with a coffee on a cold morning or to share a meal outside on a sunny afternoon.

Outbound Station features salads and sandwiches assembled in the full kitchen, an assortment of local pastries, and locally roasted La Colombe coffee. They make their own soups as well as their chicken salad and egg salad.

Looking at the cycling posters on the wall, a large selection of energy bars and the floor pump and tool kit in a corner by the coffee station, it’s obvious that a cyclist is the owner. Ken doesn’t require a purchase to fill up a water bottle or to use the restroom or the tools.

For Ken, being situated on the trail is great and being on a popular route is even better.  “We're eight and one-half miles to Valley Forge and 12 miles to the Art Museum. We're roughly that center point where people can start their ride here with plenty of parking on the weekends or use us as a meet point or a mid-point.”

While Outbound Station serves as a waypoint on The Circuit, the Cynwyd Station Cafe and Tea Room is a gateway. Owner Sadie Francis notes that, “When you come to us from the trail, we’re the entrance to Lower Merion Township. When you come to us from Lower Merion, we’re the entrance to the regional trail network.”

Sadie became involved with the development of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail in 2008. Along the way, her expertise in green building was called upon to help plan the reuse of the 1890 Pennsylvania Railroad station that overlooks the trailhead.

“What makes us so special is the entire business is built around the location. Normally when you start a business, it’s the other way around.” Sadie saw the need for a community space for informal gathering and events. She also “asked people what they want, and everyone said ice cream!” So, she sought out a local source and found Jenny and Frank’s Artisan Gelato.

Like everything on the menu, the gelato is made from ingredients available in 1890. For even more of a 19th Century feel, have a phosphate soda with your ice cream sandwich. Less chilly selections include soups and grilled nut butter sandwiches. The well-curated tea menu is complemented by fair trade coffee, hot chocolate and hot lemonade. Everything is prepared and served without the use of plastic.

With the opening of the Manayunk Bridge, a new Circuit segment linking Philadelphia and Lower Merion over the Schuylkill River, Sadie is excited that the Tea Room’s role and that of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail as connectors will grow.

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